“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B King

All students are entitled to access rigorous, relevant and engaging learning programs that are drawn from a challenging curriculum. For students with disability, including those with complex learning profiles (eg. significant cognitive disabilities), this means accessing and making progress in the regular, age-equivalent curriculum that is provided to same-aged peers. To support the realisation of equitable access, participation, and progress in the regular curriculum, students are entitled to the provision of quality differentiated teaching practice and adjustments. The design of the curriculum in combination with responsive pedagogical and instructional practices, results in the realisation of all students being able to undertake meaningful learning in inclusive classrooms.

Curriculum Design

The Australian Curriculum, New South Wales Curriculum, and Victorian Curriculum all utilise standards-based curriculum design. Standards-based curriculums are designed to be inclusive and responsive to diversity. They intentionally provide open-ended statements that do not restrict the ways in which students can interact with knowledge and skills. They are sequential in nature, with achievement being built upon as a sequence of knowledge and skills increasing in complexity from Prep/Foundation to Year 10. This means that all three curriculums have the capacity to be flexible, relevant, and responsive for all students. Access to alternate or separate curriculums is not necessary.

The table below highlights the differences between inclusive curriculum provision, and non-inclusive curriculum provision.

Characteristics of Inclusive Curriculum Provision vs Non-inclusive Curriculum Provision

Inclusive Curriculum Provision Non-inclusive Curriculum Provision
Based on content from the student’s regular grade level curriculumBased on content and topics from a lower grade level or different curriculum framework
Functional skills are taught within academic contentFunctional skills are taught in place of academic content
Identified as the current curriculum content and unit of study for all students in the classIdentified as separate learning for an individual student and/or specific students with disability
Provided in conjunction with quality differentiation and curriculum adjustmentsProvided with no variation to materials methods and/or the same materials and methods provided to students with disability as a homogenous group
Equitable access and participation is delivered through universal design and effective instructional practicesStudent is taught separately with separate resources, separate tasks and/or separate personnel
Student progress is closely monitored and instructional practices and adjustments adapted responsivelyImpact of instructional practices and adjustments are rarely reviewed and adapted
Assessment is conducted via flexible means and removes barriers that are not construct relevant.Assessment utilises the same materials, methods, and context for every student and/or the same for every student with disability as a homogenous group. Assessment involves construct irrelevant barriers without adjustment.
Access to all subject areas is providedAccess to only some subject areas is provided

Differences Between Curriculum Terminology

There is little variance between the design and content of the three curriculums used in the Australian context for Prep/Foundation to Year 10. However, there is variance in the ways in which the design and content are structured, organised and communicated. These variances have little impact on the inclusive capacity of the curriculums – meaning all three curriculums can be utilised in similar ways to respond to student diversity.

The table below highlights the alignment of consistent design features and the differences in terminology.

Australian CurriculumNSW CurriculumVictorian Curriculum
Achievement StandardStage StatementsAchievement Standard
Content DescriptionsOutcomesContent Descriptions
General Capabilities & Cross-curriculum PrioritiesGeneral Capabilities & Cross-curriculum PrioritiesCapabilities & Cross-curriculum Priorities

Achievement Standards & Stage Statements

The achievement standards and stage statements of the curriculums articulate the standard of satisfactory achievement within a learning area/subject. They describe the depth of understanding and sophistication of skill expected at the end of a particular year or band of years. The standards and statements are written as goals that have clear constructs relating to the content and topics covered within the learning area/subject discipline. The construct relevant goals allow for instructional and assessment contexts to be universally designed and responsive to student diversity. The goals articulate what is to be taught, but do not specify how to teach it, or how to assess student performance.

Content Descriptions & Outcomes

The content descriptions and outcomes of the curriculums provide further description of the content articulated in the goals of the achievement standards and stage statements. They articulate what the specified knowledge and skills look like in context for a particular year or band of years. They are presented as a sequence of learning which further refines and conceptualises the achievement standard or stage statement goals. In NSW, the outcomes are also used to assess student progress and achievement.

General Capabilities

The general capabilities encompass knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions important in equipping students to live and work successfully in the twenty-first century. They are addressed through the content of learning areas/subjects and can add depth and richness to academic learning. The general capabilities also provide opportunity to personalise knowledge, skills and behaviours that occur within learning area/subject content, and can provide opportunity to supplement and enrich access and participation in tasks.

Cross-curricular Priorities

The cross-curricular priorities provide national, regional, and global dimensions that enrich curriculum. They are addressed through learning areas and add depth and richness that encourage broader perspectives and conversations. They provide opportunity to extend the tools and language that students need in order to better engage with and understand their world, and they broaden perspectives about the value and contribution of diverse cultures and global regions.

For information regarding the practical implementation of inclusive curriculum provision, check out the following pages:

Would you like to learn more?

Loren provides professional learning focused on building teacher capability to design inclusive curriculum. This involves systematic processes regarding the identification of the construct relevant goals of the curriculum, planning for flexible means of instruction and assessment, and aligning supplementary, substantial and extensive curriculum adjustments. Loren can also provide demonstration of how to effectively and efficiently incorporate all of these aspects into inclusive lessons where all students access and participate in learning together.

If you would like to engage in professional learning regarding the design and implementation of inclusive curriculum and lessons, check out the Services page here, or send Loren an email at:

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